Our coverage Friday on the difficulty of obtaining an international version of a PowerBook keyboard generated a tremendous response from readers. Clearly there are many Mac users who find it a challenge (often seemingly unnecessary) to live in a multilingual world. Here are some of their suggestions and observations:
Reshuffle the keys Perhaps it would be easier and cheaper to just change the key caps that are unique for each language, and change the positions of the common ones to where they should be for the language chosen. Changing and repositioning key caps is very easy. (Juan Casanova)
Purchase new keys only I contacted a dealer in the country I needed the keyboard from and ordered a set of replacement keys. The dealer may claim they cannot get them, but when I insisted, they suddenly become available. The keys alone were much cheaper than a new keyboard. And if they need to be shipped overseas, the shipping costs and import duty would be much lower. I had my local dealer change out my new keys, but the process looked easy enough (the keys just sort of pop off) that most users could handle it themselves. (George Choike).
Note: The keys are fairly easy to remove and replace, but it is also easy to damage the keyboard if you don't do it correctly. Be especially careful of the keys that also use a stabilizing wire, such as the caps lock, shift, and spacebar.
Keyboard adhesive labels This Fingertipsoft sells Bilingual Keytop Labels that are applied to your current keyboard. (John Knittel & Danny Rosin).
Note: The close tolerances between laptop screens and keyboards may limit this solution to desktop Macs.
Apple discourages the practice because of price differences I bought an iBook in Canada in September 2000. Since I live in Switzerland, I wanted to swap it for a Swiss French keyboard. I went to my local dealer, who got me a new keyboard for about 150 US dollars. They said that the reason it is expensive to purchase a second, different language keyboard is to avoid people buying Macs in countries other than the one they live in, because Mac prices
Remap the keyboard What I do sometimes if I just need a limited capability for German characters, is to map the US keyboard to German and remembering where the characters are. This works OK for äöüß as I have done here, but it gets a little crazy for some characters such as @. If one is a fairly adept touch-typist and knows both keyboard layouts this really works quite well. But if you are doing a lot of entry, you do really need the right keyboard. (Gilman Shattuck).
Ebay Occasionally parts show up on
No Spanish keyboards In Chile, Apple normally ships as standard new systems with US English keyboards and Mac OS system software. You can purchase a Spanish language keyboard, but you do not receive credit for the exchange of the English language keyboard you were obligated to receive. Also, there are no Spanish versions of the iBook keyboard available. (Claudio González).
US citizens living abroad I have a friend in the Navy who is stationed in Italy. He went to great lengths to purchase an English-language iMac. None of the Italian dealers could obtain a US machine. None of the US mail order houses were allowed to ship overseas, even to US citizens. The military stores only sold PCs. Finally I had to buy one here in California and ship it to him at a cost of $200 for shipping and two and a half months in transit. (JB Cole).